Advanced Short Stories (Online)

Improving | Fiction
Learn the craft of short story writing, then create and polish new stories with an award-winning writer. Includes two masterclasses, led by internationally acclaimed short story writers to be confirmed.

This course is for those who have already begun writing. Maybe you’ve taken a couple of writing courses, maybe you’re already published, or maybe you’ve been writing privately for a while and want to take the next step and find readers. Wherever you’re at, you’ve got to grips with the basics, and you want to start making your stories better.

We’ll begin by reconnecting with the child in us, who read under the covers by torchlight after lights’ out, or put their copy of The Witches in the freezer. We’ll read Carmen Maria Machado and Kirsty Logan and think about how myths and fairytales can provide deep wells of sustenance for a whole reading, and writing, life. We’ll read Elizabeth Bowen and Sylvia Townsend Warner and David Constantine and write landscapes of the imagination. We’ll look at unusual points of view, with a special focus on the second person narrator, something of an obsession for me, taking in writers from Italo Calvino to Emmanuel Carrère, looking at intimacy and disturbing power dynamics in short fiction. We’ll look at how Chekhov can speak to our souls from more than a century away. We’ll think about the stories that will survive us, and what we leave on the page for those to come, taking in visceral stories by Irenosen Okojie and Yan Ge. At the heart of the course will be a trilogy of sessions on Time, from basic chronology to quantum physics. With reference to Tobias Wolff, Lorrie Moore, Lucia Berlin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kevin Barry and more we’ll think about time and the short story: how to intensify chronology, how to write the moments that lift a story from the pedestrian to the sublime, how to handle tricks of time. We’ll read Mariana Enriquez and Alice Munro and discuss how to shape a story around losses – and unexpected gains. I’ll share drafts of my own stories, from the first messages-to-self on my iPhone’s Notes, to the copy-edited final version, and we’ll discuss the intricacies of the editing process, and how to edit yourself and others well. We’ll also discuss what makes a good collection: how to open and how to end, how to have a sense of progression and escalation through, how to have coherence and variation on themes, choosing a couple of tightly-constructed recent collections to read and discuss in their entirety.

Borges said that good readers are even rarer than good writers – and it’s true. In this course, we’ll sharpen and hone our stories by reading with every fibre of our being. We’ll read classics, and great contemporary stories, we’ll read each other’s work, and we’ll read our own work with new eyes.

Every week we’ll begin by an in-depth critique of your work, which everyone will read in advance. Although there will be slots for just two people each session, to allow for a meaningful and helpful discussion, you will be assigned mini-groups of three or four with which to share work every week, and outside of the formal sessions.

If the thought of reading even some of these writers excites you as much as it inspires and energises me – I look forward to seeing you there!

16th September 2021 - 2nd December 2021

Availability: Out of stock

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Sessions will take place 7pm–9pm every Thursday night for twelve weeks. Below is a session breakdown, which is subject to change, but should give you a good idea of what to expect.

Session 1 – 16 September: Running with the wolves. This opening session will awaken our wisest, wildest inner voices, as we look at the stories that shape us, and how to draw on our earliest influences for inspiration.

Session 2 – 23 September: Bowen & Constantine & Sylvia Townsend Warner. This session will explore how to write the subtle, shifting landscape of a character’s imagination, the piercing insights into the psyche that short fiction can do best.

Session 3 – 30 September: About suffering they were never wrong. This session will look at Chekhov and the modernist short story, the rise of the form in the twentieth century, and how Chekhov, in particular, still matters to us now.

Session 4 – 7 October: Power games and playing with points of view. This session will explore the more unusual narrative perspectives, from second person to choral narrators.

Session 5 – 14 October: Guest tutor tbc

Session 6 – 21 October: Time 1. The first of a trilogy of masterclasses at the core of this course will look at how to make the chronology of your story as tight as possible.

Session 7 – 28 October: Time 2. The second in the central trilogy will look at the intensified moment, the epiphany, often the short story’s raison d’etre.

Session 8 – 4 November: Time 3. The final masterclass in this central trilogy will look at how different writers have played with time, giving you all the tricks of the trade.

Session 9 – 11 November: Guest tutor tbc

Session 10 – 18 November: Losses and gains. This session will look at the short story as comedy, as tragedy and, in the Shakespearean sense, as ‘late romance’, with tragedy miraculously averted…

Session 11 – 25 November: This session will be devoted to editing. From the first glimmer of a story to the final draft. We’ll also look at how to structure a compelling collection.

Session 12 – 2 December: What will survive of us is love. In this session, we’ll explore how to tell the most important stories you’ll ever tell, with reference to some of our most fearless contemporary writers.

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Born in Belfast in 1981, Lucy Caldwell is the multi–award winning author of three novels,...

"There's no point staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike - to get your creative muscles working you need to start writing, reviewing and sharing your work."

Helen Shipman